I'm semi-housebound at the moment, off my tits on painkillers and listening to lovely, cuddly, valium-for-the-liberal-soul NPR station WHYY.
Only it's pledge week. Which means that every single program is interrupted by the mellifluously voiced employees of WHYY waffling on at great length about how wonderful WHYY is and why we listeners should therefore contribute financially to its upkeep.
Leaving aside the fact that NPR should be entirely subsidized by a swingeing "vice tax" imposed on right-wing talk radio--imagine the sweet justice of anti-journalism being used to pay for the real thing--I find WHYY's demands on my wallet utterly resistible. And I say that as someone who thinks that public radio is one of the truly great things about the modern day America.
My reason for not giving WHYY a single cent is the same reason I am left unmoved by Irish shitrocker Bono's teeth-gratingly pompous attempts to pluck my liberal heartstrings. Dude, you're a multi-mega-millionaire and a Christian. Why don't you give every single penny to the poor, the way Jesus commands you, and then we'll talk about me chipping in, OK?
I'm talking specifically about the freaking enormous salary WHYY pays its CEO. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, "William J. Marrazzo's potential pay, benefits and expenses totaled $740,090 in the year ending June 30, 2007, according to its most recent tax filing. The package consists of $415,993 in salary, $317,240 in benefits and $6,857 in expenses."
Three quarters of a million dollars?
That's like winning the lottery every year. What does he spend it all on? Faberg� eggs? Caviar sammies? Pajamas made of still-living--but sedated--mink? Seriously, it must be like Brewster's Millions meets Groundhog Day around his house. "Oh no, I've only got a year to spend THREE QUARTERS OF A MILLION FUCKING DOLLARS!"
And that's why I won't be giving any money to NPR.
Please understand that this is not a personal attack on Mr. Marrazzo, who looks from his photo to be a thoroughly nice chap and who no doubt works jolly hard at his job. And of course I'd say yes to $750,000 salary if someone were stupid enough to offer it for any job that wasn't actually shoveling radioactive shit. You'd be mad not to.
Now the people who decided to give Mr. Marrazzo such a stupidly large amount of your money have what they think are damn good reasons for doing so, chiefly that Mr. Marrazzo "has strong ties in the business, civic and cultural worlds."
Members of the ridiculously massive salary club always say this. What it means is that the person getting paid the ridiculously large salary knows lots of other people who are also paid ridiculously large salaries.
In every instance these ridiculously large salaries are set by people who also take home ridiculously large salaries. (And therefore have a vested interest in not saying: "Hang on! Three quarters of a million dollars? Are we insane?") And who then turn round and tell critics that the ridiculously large salaries "are what the market demands."
This is utter nonsense.
The free market didn't decide the job of top paper shuffler was worth a gazillion dollars. The top paper shufflers did. And why not? I know for damn sure that if journalists were allowed to decide their own wages, we too would be paying ourselves a gazillion dollars. Who wouldn't?
But I like to think we'd at least feel just a little bit guilty about it. Especially if the organization we worked for was begging for donations from a population with an estimated average income of $39,000 (including a lot of people who earn a lot less).
But that's the thing about the ridiculously large salary club. They are utterly unembarrassed. They really think they're worth every penny, even if they prove to be utterly shit at their jobs--hell, even if they all but destroy the world's economy through their sheer stupidity and blundering incompetence. We saw a great example of this recently when the stupendously well-paid CEOs of banks and other financial institutions who had fucked up so badly they needed a bajillion taxpayer dollar bail-out, decided to spend all of that money on giving each other massive bonus packages and $1,200 wastepaper baskets and $35,000 toilets to go in their refurbished gold helicopters.
Why? Because they're worth it, apparently.